April 2012

2012 Shell Key West Challenge Celebrates Record Catches

It was no surprise that anglers competing in the 2012 Shell Key West Challenge enjoyed outstanding fishing and record-high scores in the charity tournament’s 24-year history. What did come as a bit of a shock was learning that vendors and sponsors had taken top honors, capturing first through fourth place in the highly popular corporate challenge, which raises funds for the Diabetes Research Institute. It isn't unusual for one or two sponsor teams to do well against some of the more veteran Shell and Motiva anglers, but this was the first time that the vendors and sponsors swept the top four places.

When committee boat chairman Findlay Sinclair announced “lines out of the water” at 3:30 PM on Saturday, April 28th, the top two teams had broken the previous record of 1005 total points. At the awards ceremony later that evening, tournament officials congratulated the first and second place winners for their remarkable scores of 1380 and 1100 points. The unique scoring system awards points for 15 different species of fish that can be caught in the waters surrounding Key West, and to score 1,000 points during the tournament is considered an almost impossible feat. In all, 32 teams competed and 182 anglers and guests helped the Shell Key West Challenge raise more than $60,000 for the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI).

Based out of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, the DRI is an internationally acclaimed research facility using cutting-edge technology to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Since its inception in 1989 the Shell Key West Challenge has contributed more than $2 million to charity, with nearly $500,000 going to the DRI in the past several years.

Perhaps it was only fitting that the landlocked Oklahoma-based team of Link Clifton, Jim Turner, Gary Pierson, and Nels Petersen took top honors in the 2012 Challenge. Fishing aboard the Double Down, the team scored 1380 points, caught and released eight sailfish and boated virtually all of the other target species. This is the eighth year that Clifton, owner of Star Fuels of Oklahoma, has fielded a team, but it's the first time he's won. "We took a vote and decided if we got the right boat, we'd do everything we could to come out on top," stated a jubilant Clifton after the second day of fishing. "When we drew Capt. Bryce on the Double Down, we knew we had a really good chance of being in one of the top spots." Capt. Bryce has competed in the Shell Key West Challenge for 11 years, but this was his first win. "We've come close before, taking second a few years back, but when Link and his anglers made it clear they were looking to compete hard, I knew we had a good shot at winning," explained Bryce at the Awards Ceremony on the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort. "The sailfishing had been outstanding during the week and I realized that catching and releasing sails would be the key to success."

Finishing a close second on the Linda D V with Capt. Billy Wickers III, was the Royal Buying Group team of Mike Zielinski, Angela Angellili, Cheryl Fronczak, Joseph Camalick, and Julia Angellili. At the end of the final day of fishing, these anglers, who hail from Lisle, Illinois (just west of Chicago), had caught and released three sailfish and scored 1010 points. Zielinski, President and CEO of Royal Buying Group, has been fielding a team in the Shell Key West Challenge for several years. 

The Dallas-based Authentix team of Kathy Payn, Dan Little, Tim Huff, Dianna MacDonald, Brandon Logsdon, and Chris Crum, fishing aboard the Wild Bill II, scored 925 points to finish in third place. Huff had two top individual honors as well, reeling in the largest amberjack (70#) and largest blackfin tuna (25#). Like the other top teams, this group from Authentix has been sponsoring, and competing in, the Shell Key West Challenge for years.

The Big River Enterprises family team of Matt, Aaron, Mary, and Taylor Holmes, from Reserve, Louisiana rounded out the top four places with a score of 895 points. Fishing with the Holmes family aboard the Southpaw was Gladys Sloan. All five anglers on the Southpaw caught and released sailfish.

In total, thirty-six sailfish were caught and released during the two-day tournament, which was founded by Shell Oil wholesaler Hayden Blaylock, CEO of Blaylock Oil Company in Homestead, Florida. One of the longest running tournaments in the Florida Keys, the Shell Key West Challenge will celebrate 25 years in 2013.

Tournament director Crystal Blaylock Sanchez and her father Hayden thanked the anglers during the awards ceremony Saturday evening on the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort. Crystal also thanked this year’s sponsors who offset tournament expenses so that a greater donation may be made to the Diabetes Research Institute. Helping with corporate sponsorship were Anheuser-Busch, BB Insurance Marketing, Blaylock Oil Company, Coca-Cola, Eagle Transport, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Kelly & Bill Hohn, King Fuels, Results Direct Marketing, Motiva Enterprises, Fish Skinz Apparel, GK Direct, Citibank, Wayne, Monster Energy, Joe & Lindy Roth Foundation, Royal Performance Group, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Starz Buying Club, and Whitney Bank.

As the evening wound down, Hayden's grandson Matthew Sanchez expressed his gratitude to Dr. Luca Inverardi of the Diabetes Research Institute, and to the many other professionals who are working hard to find a cure for him and the millions of other young people who are living with Type 1 diabetes. And finally, Matthew thanked the anglers and sponsors who make the annual Shell Key West Challenge such a resounding success.


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